Like many wanderlust junkies, traveling has long been my drug of choice. The current circumstances of the world (global pandemic), however, have forced me to ween myself from that drug and, by default, the wanderlust that accompanies it. Further from that, the increased (and in some cases, repeat) isolation granted me uber amounts of space to process a hardy handful of elements about my travel existence. Leading me to one solitary question: Are there are side effects to solo travel?
After globetrotting for three years (primarily) solo, I now find myself living as an ex-pat in Andalusia (Southern Spain). This craving for stillness was met with a sort of reverse culture shock to my psyche. I went from being solo to constantly being around other humans. The majority of which were younger and more inexperienced in life than myself. Scheduling events, a social life, and new friendships all required navigation.
Admittedly, it took me too long to realize the frustrations I was experiencing: moodiness, mental exhaustion, and to be completely honest, anger. All of these were the side effects of my solo traveling lifestyle. But simply having the awareness of these side effects isn’t enough. So I began researching these by-products of a solitary existence and how to cope with the side effects of solo travel in this new chapter of my adventure playbook.
Recognizing there are side effects
Pretending that emotion isn’t real, doesn’t make it go away. More often than not, we do not understand the weight of something until we feel the absence of it. This is how understanding these side effects works, too.
So what are the common side effects of solo travel? Loneliness leads the pack by a long shot. Followed closely by its step-baby-play-cousin, isolation.
In my journey, I first had to greet and welcome these two characters to exist, then work on befriending them because so long as embrace a solo traveling lifestyle, they, too, will remain frequent visitors – regardless of which continent I’m located on.
In the thick of jet setting (and my grief), I often mistook loneliness for mourning or boredom. Picking them apart was essential because there are different solutions for each, so differentiating between them was a necessity before I could learn how best to cope.
How to cope with the side effects of solo travel
Start by forgiving what I call “solo-travel-selfishness” and look for the positives. As a female over the age of 30, society tells me that I should be married with children, maintain a mortgage, a killer figure (you know, just in case Mr. Right materializes), and be in the possession of a thriving career. Instead, I’ve earned 55+ passport stamps, countless cross-cultural exchanges, and global friendships all while remaining unwed and without offspring and inhaling a turkey burger (side of seasoned fries). Different strokes, different folks. A nomadic life works for me.
Things in motion tend to stay in motion – as they say – yet coming to a standstill has been an unexpected necessity. With stillness, comes clarity. I think someone else said that once, too. As we all adjust to life in this new normal, nomadic persons of a solo nature are having to adjust to a lot more than that.
Consider these suggestions when learning how to cope with the side effects of solo travel:
- When feeling lonely, simply reach out to people. Do not become complacent in self-isolating.
- Ask to join the next group hike or activity.
- Schedule bi-weekly video calls with loved ones and allow them to fill the space of loneliness with positive updates from their lives.
- Listen to your intuition when it craves solitude. Try not to succumb to FOMO (fear of missing out) when alone time is the needed specialty of the day.
- Learning to love and be with oneself is crucial for overall balance in life. Perhaps one day a week is solely dedicated to a healthy self-care routine or treat yourself to dinner and movie (or a simple picnic in the park).
- Take a walk through a crowded area and people watch without necessarily engaging someone.
As an advocate for solo adventuring (especially for females), it’s not my intention to deter people from solo traveling. On the contrary, really. So much self-discovery waits for you there. I am highlighting, however, that recognizing that there are side effects to a solo traveling lifestyle allows us to understand what they’re all about. Sitting with the emotions that accompany them can help us learn to cope with and then manage them over time. Lean into the positive angle of life, making time to laugh and enjoy where you are, as you are.
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